U of S Receives Funds to Improve Wheat Phosphorous, Nitrogen Uptake

by | Jan 17, 2022 | Funding, Research, Wheat

The Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) has been awarded $295,000 by Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) for a project aiming to improve phosphorous and nitrogen uptake and efficiency in bread wheat, a Jan. 17 news release says.

The project, led by Leon Kochian, Canada excellence research chair in global food security at GIFS, and Wendy Lyzenga, GIFS’ research associate, is also receiving co-funding from the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, Alberta Wheat Commission, Manitoba Crop Alliance, and Western Grains Research Foundation.

The project’s goal is to help wheat producers in Canada get better return on their inputs, the release says. The team plans to do this by identifying naturally occurring wheat alleles (genetic variations) that not only have improved nitrogen and phosphorous uptake from the soil, but also use nutrients more efficiently within the plant to produce leaves, convert sunlight into glucose through photosynthesis and produce high-quality seeds with resilient and sustainable yields.

“Typical crop plants only take up around 50 per cent of the phosphorus and nitrogen fertilizer applied by farmers to the soil, and this comes at considerable cost to producers and the environment,” Kochian says in the release. “Fertilizer is critical to global food production and food security. It is one of the important tools producers have to increase yields. We see a real opportunity to enhance the economic and environmental return to farmers by improving the efficacy of nutrient uptake and utilization in plants.”

The release notes this project has been made possible by recent advancements in gene editing and the development of wheat genomic resources including a landmark U of S study which sequenced the genomes of 15 wheat varieties from around the world.

Kochian and Lyzenga have already identified a collection of genes that improve nitrogen and phosphorous use efficiency in several crop sciences, the release notes. The next step is to determine how many allelic variants for those genes currently exist in Canadian wheat breeding populations. After these variants have been identified, the team will use gene editing technology to systematically test which of them will produce the most favourable outcomes.

The research could have benefits beyond improved nitrogen and phosphorous use efficiency.

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